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Clean Energy Blog


The Clean Energy program is responsible for powering sustainable solutions and progress past bad ideas. With your help, we oppose West Coast coal and crude oil export, protect our region from dangerous transport of fossil fuels, and advocate for clean energy solutions throughout our communities. Read more.

  • Washington Goes Solar! A Year of Local Leadership in Clean Energy 2018 was a big year for clean energy in Whatcom County and Bellingham, despite the federal government allying itself firmly with fossil fuel interests. The City of Bellingham became the ...
    Posted Dec 17, 2018, 6:15 PM by Simon Bakke
  • Announcing RE Sources' new Executive Director! From RE Sources Board president, Charlie Maliszewski Great news! The board of directors has hired an Executive Director who will lead the organization into what promises to be an exciting ...
    Posted Nov 16, 2018, 2:05 PM by Simon Bakke
  • Yes on I-1631: An inclusive approach to building healthier communities By Andy Nicholas, Associate Director of Fiscal Policy at the Washington State Budget & Policy Center.This post is republished with permission from their blog.Washingtonians must take bold action to ...
    Posted Aug 21, 2018, 10:31 AM by Simon Bakke
  • Tell Whatcom County Council: Safeguard our communities, Cherry Point, and the Salish Sea In a shocking move, Canada’s federal government recently announced it will purchase the Trans Mountain Pipeline from Texas giant Kinder Morgan, bailing out the stalled tar sands export expansion ...
    Posted Jun 25, 2018, 1:59 PM by Simon Bakke
  • Op-Ed: YES on I-1631, for clean energy and healthy communities By Ander Russell, Clean Water Program Manager, and Rosalinda Guillen, Executive Director of Community to Community Development; Originally published in Cascadia Weekly, April 11, 2018.Support clean air, clean energy ...
    Posted Apr 12, 2018, 11:36 AM by Simon Bakke
Showing posts 1 - 5 of 15. View more »

Washington Goes Solar! A Year of Local Leadership in Clean Energy

posted Dec 17, 2018, 6:08 PM by Simon Bakke   [ updated Dec 17, 2018, 6:15 PM ]

2018 was a big year for clean energy in Whatcom County and Bellingham,
despite the federal government allying itself firmly with fossil fuel interests. The City of Bellingham became the second city in Washington to commit to using 100% clean energy by 2035, and formed a committee of community members to advise them on reaching that goal. Bellingham also turned out some of the strongest support in the state for I-1631, with 68% of residents voting Yes for the clean air and clean energy ballot initiative in November.

While RE Sources pushed for those measures to help our city, county, and state transition away from fossil fuels, we also partnered with two local companiesEcotech Solar and Itek Energy — on our Washington Goes Solar! program, which successfully outfitted 40 homes and businesses with solar arrays. Ecotech and Itek then donated a panel to The RE Store for every home or business that went solar as a result of learning the benefits at our workshops.

Our goal was to break down barriers for people who hadn’t realized solar was a good fit for them -- helping them understand the complicated incentive programs, encouraging them to have their home or business assessed for solar’s feasibility, and answer any burning questions. We hosted 10 workshops and got over 200 community members up to speed on how to go solar, how easy and affordable it can be with low-interest financing, and how they can possibly generate even more power off their roof than they consume annually — even in rainy western Washington.

This solar program model proved to be mutually beneficial to local businesses, Whatcom residents, and RE Sources. It provided a free, easy way for community members to better understand how a home solar array can pay for itself in just a few years. It drummed up business for company headquartered just down the road from RE Sources. And it earned a nonprofit its very own solar array, freeing up funds to put back into the community (like The RE Store’s Community Jobs Training Program) that would otherwise go to an electricity bill. Ecotech installed half of the 40 panels The RE Store earned through the program on the warehouse roof this summer, and the rest are coming early 2019.

No matter what barriers clean energy faces nationally, our community has shown time and time again that it is built of role models and forward-thinkers who know that a clean energy future is not only necessary — it’s within our reach, if we choose to journey there, one solar panel at a time.

Announcing RE Sources' new Executive Director!

posted Nov 16, 2018, 2:03 PM by Simon Bakke   [ updated Nov 16, 2018, 2:05 PM ]

From RE Sources Board president, Charlie Maliszewski 

Great news! The board of directors has hired an Executive Director who will lead the organization into what promises to be an exciting new chapter. With great pleasure, we would like to introduce you to Shannon Wright, strategic leader and time-tested activist, who has led successful, high-impact initiatives to protect the environment and support frontline communities. 

Shannon has been a leader in the environmental movement for more than twenty years.
Some may know her as former ED of Communitywise Bellingham, one of the key orgs that  raised awareness to defeat the GPT coal terminal. She has also helped develop a dynamic strategy to bolster the BALLE movement for localized economies; forged alliances with diverse stakeholders to advance clean energy solutions with Greenpeace; addressed deforestation and supported indigenous communities in the Amazon rainforest; and advocated for women’s rights in Andean farming communities with CARE International.

Shannon brings a collaborative approach to building coalitions and teams, with a strong track record in advocacy strategy, communications, fundraising, planning, organizational development, direct action, international coalition building, and team leadership. 

We are excited to see what happens with Shannon’s strategic guidance, visionary leadership, and advocacy chops, combined with the opportunities we now have with a pro-environment majority in the state legislature. 2019 will be the year for Washington State to become an example to our nation with a new generation of women in power who have the courage and foresight to tackle important issues like climate change.

We are grateful we can count on you, our supporters, to stand with us to protect the home we love and the values we share. 

Yes on I-1631: An inclusive approach to building healthier communities

posted Aug 10, 2018, 11:26 AM by Simon Bakke   [ updated Aug 21, 2018, 10:31 AM ]

By Andy Nicholas, Associate Director of Fiscal Policy at the Washington State Budget & Policy Center.
This post is republished with permission from their blog.

https://www.facebook.com/yeson1631/


Washingtonians must take bold action to confront the serious threat that air pollution poses to the health and well-being of communities from Longview to Walla Walla. But meaningful action can only be achieved and sustained if people and communities – especially people of color, rural communities, and other populations that are often overlooked by lawmakers and initiative campaigns – are rightfully included in developing solutions to this threat from the very beginning.

That's why the Washington State Budget & Policy Center is joining Tribal Nations, businesses, climate scientists, public health experts, and organizations representing communities of color, workers, and families with lower incomes in endorsing Initiative 1631.

I-1631 is a smart, inclusive proposal to invest in clean air and water in Washington state. Under the measure, hundreds of millions of dollars would be invested in communities like Yakima, South Seattle, Centralia, and other areas that have been most harmed by air pollution to build clean and efficient transportation and energy infrastructure. And workers in these communities would benefit from new "green collar" jobs that would be created in the process of building and maintaining the new clean infrastructure.

Here’s how it would work: Beginning in 2020, I-1631 would impose a first-in-the-nation pollution fee on the biggest polluters in Washington state that emit large amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere or that import carbon-laden fossil fuels. The fee would initially be set at $15 per ton of carbon dioxide and would increase annually at a rate of $2 per ton, adjusted for inflation, until the state meets specific air pollution reduction goals. It would generate roughly $850 million in new resources for community investments in the upcoming 2019-21 budget cycle and more than $1.3 billion in the following 2021-23 cycle. (1)   

But the truly remarkable feature of I-1631 is the amount of revenue that would be directly invested into "pollution and health action areas," or areas that have been disproportionately impacted by air pollution. That includes many rural areas. It also includes places with large concentrations of people of color who, due to systemic racism, are much more likely to live in heavily polluted areas and areas with fewer employment opportunities.   

For example, in the 2021-23 budget cycle, the first biennium in which the carbon fee would be fully implemented, the measure would require:

  • Substantial clean energy infrastructure projects located directly within pollution and health action areas ($245 million)
  • Resources to help people with lower incomes upgrade to newer, energy-efficient appliances, transition to low-carbon fuels, weatherize their homes, install solar panels, and offset other costs associated with transitioning to a low-carbon economy ($144 million)
  • Sovereign Indian Tribes receive a just share of resources to help address climate-related dislocation, fight poor health associated with disproportionate exposure to air pollution, build low-carbon energy and transportation infrastructure, and more ($139 million)
  • Assistance for workers employed in the fossil fuel industry to transition to good, clean-energy jobs. Workers near retirement would be eligible to receive wage replacements, health benefits, pension contributions, and other benefits. Younger workers would also be eligible for wage replacement, health benefits, and pension contributions. They would also be granted free access to retraining programs at state technical and community colleges, assistance with relocation costs, and priority placement at jobs in the clean energy sector ($50 million)
  • Resources to help people living in pollution and health action areas participate in the process of developing and monitoring clean energy projects and programs to help their communities transition to a vibrant clean energy economy ($14 million)
The remaining two-thirds of revenue from the pollution fee would be used to fund clean air and energy projects located outside of these targeted areas, and to sustain clean water and healthy forests throughout the state.

It's important to note that residents from pollution and health action areas would have a direct and strong voice in developing, approving, and overseeing projects funded by the pollution fee. That's because the measure would establish a public oversight board of representatives from Tribal governments, labor unions, and people living in pollution and health action areas, alongside agencies and experts in pollution reduction and clean energy. 

I-1631 would also create an environmental and economic justice panel composed of residents from pollution and health action areas, members of Tribal Nations, labor unions, and experts in clean energy and economic dislocation. The panel would be charged with developing and recommending projects to be located directly within the pollution and health action areas. It would also be responsible for developing programs to ensure people with lower incomes have the support they need to adapt and thrive in a low-carbon economy. 

Voters should approve I-1631 on the November ballot. The measure would help jumpstart Washington’s transition to a healthier, low-carbon economy in which all communities will have opportunities to thrive in the coming years. It is also the most inclusive effort ever undertaken to improve the health and well-being of communities in every corner of Washington state. 

-----------

(1) Washington State Budget & Policy Center calculations of data from the Office of Financial Management’s Fiscal Impact Statement for Initiative 1631

Tell Whatcom County Council: Safeguard our communities, Cherry Point, and the Salish Sea

posted Jun 25, 2018, 1:45 PM by Simon Bakke   [ updated Jun 25, 2018, 1:59 PM ]

In a shocking move, Canada’s federal government recently announced it will purchase the Trans Mountain Pipeline from Texas giant Kinder Morgan, bailing out the stalled tar sands export expansion project for $4.5 billion in taxpayer dollars -- a project no other buyer wanted. 

While the battle against the Trans Mountain Expansion Pipeline rages on, Canada’s acquisition also includes the existing 64-year-old Puget Sound Pipeline that carries tar sands to all four refineries in Skagit and Whatcom Counties. It travels under the Nooksack River, and parts of Bellingham including Whatcom Falls Park.
Tar sands field in Alberta, Canada

Pipeline investor reports have marked Cherry Point as an alternative route for tar sands exports, raising the possibility of an oil terminal expansion in the Cherry Point Aquatic Reserve, and another pipeline expansion across Whatcom County. That would mean more super-tankers passing around the San Juan Islands, bringing an increased risk of a catastrophic oil spill that could spell the end for salmon and orca populations.

That’s why we have to keep up the pressure on Whatcom County Council to safeguard our communities, Cherry Point, and the Salish Sea by enacting stronger laws and policies locally. 

Will you send a message to the Whatcom County Council today? Below is a template for you to adapt and send to council@co.whatcom.wa.us

We stand ready to do whatever it takes to safeguard our home and waters, indigenous rights, and iconic species like salmon and orca. Will you stand with us today? Thank you!

Template Letter: 

Honorable Councilmembers, 

[ADD personal note about why you are concerned and impacted by tar sands shipments]

Cherry Point is at risk again of becoming a transshipment point to load tankers with ‘tar sands’ heavy crude oil from Canada’s Trans Mountain (Puget Sound) Pipeline, which would increase the risk of an oil spill in endangered species’ habitat and on our beloved shorelines of the Salish Sea. 

I implore you to strengthen standards and conditions for project permits in the Cherry Point UGA, to protect our communities from the burden of risk and adverse impacts on health and safety from transporting heavy crude oil and other hazardous materials through Whatcom County. New facilities to ship coal, oil or gas should be prohibited, and existing facilities should be held to the highest standards for safety and pollution control. Permits for upgrades must require SEPA EIS review of cumulative impacts with a greenhouse gas life-cycle analysis, total mitigation of climate pollution, and conditions to require no adverse impacts on herring, salmon, orca, or other endangered species. 

In 2012, Whatcom County permitted two oil-by-rail unloading facilities which have brought near-daily shipments of >100-unit explosive tank cars through Bellingham and Ferndale, without requiring an environmental impacts study. Projects such as these highlight the inadequacy of County procedures to reasonably protect our communities from unacceptable hazards. 

Furthermore, it is a waste of county resources to process or approve project permits without prior federal authorization for compliance with treaty-protected tribal fishing rights and laws such as the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Please ensure that our tax dollars are not again wasted on reviewing and permitting unlawful projects, as was done for Gateway Pacific Terminal. 

Thank you for your hard work and diligence in service of our county,

NAME
CITY (address optional)
EMAIL


Op-Ed: YES on I-1631, for clean energy and healthy communities

posted Apr 12, 2018, 11:36 AM by Simon Bakke

By Ander Russell, Clean Water Program Manager, and Rosalinda Guillen, Executive Director of Community to Community Development; Originally published in Cascadia Weekly, April 11, 2018.

Support clean air, clean energy and healthier communities.

The work of protecting people and the planet is a roller coaster of wins and losses. Lately, we are playing a lot of defense against local, state and national groups seeking to undo decades of social and environmental progress. Washington voters will soon have an opportunity to stand up for the health of our communities, economy and climate. Will you join us in our endeavor to create a cleaner future for Washington, building healthier communities for everyone in our state?

Northwest Washington has seen the consequences of a changing climate: Last summer, wildfire smoke choked the region, while salmon died in shallowing rivers. Even so, our state’s legislature failed to pass meaningful climate legislation this year. As the federal government turns its back on the reality of climate change, the real-life consequences jeopardize the health of people and the economy.

That’s why the people of Washington are moving forward with Initiative 1631, the Protect Washington Act. This initiative will create living-wage jobs by investing in clean energy, healthy forests and clean water. With funds from a fee paid by the state’s largest polluters, we can increase the resiliency of our communities to the impacts of climate change.

For decades, corporate polluters have put profits over people while dirtying our land, air and water. Many of us already contribute to cleaning up and preventing pollution. I-1631 gives us the tools to do the job right, getting the largest polluters to fund investments in clean energy infrastructure like wind and solar, and creating lasting, well-paying, local jobs.

I-1631 is backed by diverse constituencies across the state representing working families, communities of color, environmental and clean energy advocates, health professionals, businesses, and faith organizations all committed to building our state’s economy, improving the health of our residents and leading the fight against climate change. We came together to find solutions that work for all of us—especially those from the most impacted communities, who have historically been excluded from decisions about the environment and economy, Farmworkers, labor organizers, environmental advocates, health professionals, and more came together around the same table to create a policy that reflects our shared values. Every single person wants a healthy environment and a vibrant economy that works for everyone.

Here in Whatcom County, local backers of this policy include Community to Community, RE Sources for Sustainable Communities, the NW Central Labor Council (AFL-CIO), Riveters Collective, 350 Bellingham, Stand.earth, Safeguard the Southfork, Jobs with Justice, and Mt Baker Group Sierra Club.

Climate change is happening now. We can’t wait for action any longer. Yet we must ensure that solutions to climate change are fair and equitable. In crafting this initiative, our coalition put justice and equity at the forefront. That means listening to the voices of those who are impacted and ensuring indigenous rights and tribal sovereignty are respected and upheld, all while ensuring protections for workers in all industries—from refineries to farms.

What will I-1631 invest in? Expanding renewable power generation from wind and solar. Restoring and protecting water sources, estuaries, fisheries, and marine shorelines, reducing flood risk, improving infrastructure for treating stormwater, preparing for sea-level rise and addressing ocean acidification. We’ll improve forest health and enhance preparedness for wildfires. Dedicated funds will assist low-income residents to ensure affordable energy, and support workers that may be displaced by the transition from fossil fuels to energy independence. All this means thousands of family-wage jobs across our state. Our policy also ensures public oversight and accountability for making good investments.

Sovereign indigenous nations have also expressed meaningful support for this initiative. Funds will aid climate adaptation and clean energy for native communities, and tribal governments must be consulted on projects directly impacting their land and resources.

Washingtonians have never been afraid to lead or create something new. Through people’s ballot initiatives, Washington voters have forged the way for other states on numerous policies. Now, we’re setting the course for equitable climate policy in the United States. That’s why we need your help to qualify for the ballot and to win in November.

You can join our movement today! To learn more about our policy, the coalition, or to join our campaign, visit: yeson1631.org

Attend Bellingham’s campaign kickoff at 6:30pm April 19 at Bellingham Unitarian Fellowship (1207 Ellsworth St.) to get involved in signature gathering.

Rosalinda Guillen is executive director of Community to Community Development; Ander Russell is the Clean Water program manager for RE Sources for Sustainable Communities

Environmental Groups Challenge Permit for Oil Refinery Export Expansion

posted Apr 4, 2018, 2:25 PM by Simon Bakke   [ updated Apr 5, 2018, 8:55 AM ]

Click here for the full appeal with the state Shorelines Hearings Board.

You can find more background information at the end of this page, and at www.re-sources.org/tesoroxylene.

Joint press release below:

MOUNT VERNON, WA — On April 4, seven local and regional environmental organizations appealed Skagit County’s approval of a project that would ship hundreds of millions of gallons of toxic chemicals through the Salish Sea every year, much of it destined for Asia. The groups maintain that the approval for the Tesoro (recently renamed Andeavor) Anacortes Refinery petrochemical expansion project did not receive a proper review and that the environmental impact statement ignored threats to a healthy Salish Sea and livable climate. The coalition of Stand.earth, RE Sources for Sustainable Communities, Friends of the San Juans, Friends of the Earth, Sierra Club, Puget Soundkeeper Alliance and Evergreen Islands filed the appeal with the state Shorelines Hearings Board, challenging a Shoreline Substantial Development Permit that the Skagit County Board of Commissioners upheld on March 6. Nearly 7,500 public commenters had pressed Skagit County for a careful review, and nearly 200 citizens attended a February 27 hearing on the issue. 

The coalition requests that the State Shorelines Hearings Board vacate the permit and require additional environmental review. That review, performed by Skagit County staff, failed to adequately consider the impacts from increased vessel traffic in the Salish Sea, increased risk of petrochemical and oil spills, increased emissions of greenhouse gases, increased impacts to air and water quality and increased threats to public health and safety. It also overlooked increased impacts to fish and wildlife resources — including the endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales. Governor Inslee recently signed an Executive Order instructing state agencies to take aggressive action to recover Southern Resident killer whales because they are “an iconic and treasured species in Washington and throughout the Pacific Northwest.”

The groups are also appealing the decision to only require a Shoreline Substantial Development Permit, instead of a stronger Shoreline Conditional Use Permit. The more rigorous permit is required when older facilities propose new uses in the shoreline area, and when large bulk transfer operations are involved. Because of the unique risks associated with these types of projects, the State Department of Ecology is responsible for approving shoreline conditional uses. 

Following the announcement, environmental organizations issued the following statements:

“This project’s potential for doing irreparable environmental harm to our Salish Sea is why our environmental coalition came together in a steadfast effort to hold governments and industry to the highest standards. Skagit County has failed to properly regulate new industrial activity and its impacts. This project will transform the existing wharf into a petrochemical export terminal, a new use that was never before been considered or approved. We are acting today to protect not only the Padilla Bay National Estuarine Reserve and the Fidalgo Bay Aquatic Reserve – both with shorelines designated Shoreline of Statewide Significance – but also Fidalgo, Guemes, and Samish Islands,” - Tom Glade, President of Evergreen Islands.

“This project would increase air pollution, and that needs to be properly factored into the decision. Last year, the Shorelines Hearings Board ruled that Cowlitz County had improperly estimated the greenhouse gas emissions and impacts of a project in the same ways that Skagit County has now. We are confident that in this case too, the work will have to be redone.” - Eddy Ury, Clean Energy Program Manager for RE Sources for Sustainable Communities. 

“The Salish Sea is irreplaceable and this project unnecessarily puts it at risk. The Environmental Impact Statement was deeply flawed, failed to account for the acoustic impacts on Southern Resident Killer Whales and failed to account for the real risk of a worst-case spill. This project would mean 60 new petrochemical vessels coming to Anacortes every year. Many of these would be the under-regulated articulated tug barges (ATBs); in November 2016 an ATB ran aground, sank, and spilled over 100,000 liters of diesel near Bella Bella. Just one year later an ATB’s “emergency situation” came close to causing another spill in the same location in British Columbia. A spill from this project’s vessels could cause far greater environmental and economic impacts.” - Stephanie Buffum, Executive Director with Friends of the San Juans. 

“We are going to keep pushing to get this right. Tesoro’s plan is to ship massive quantities of petrochemicals through the community. The environmental study downplays the the risk of a major spill and the impact from climate pollution” said Chris Winter, co-director of Crag Law Center (crag.org), which is representing the appealing organizations. “We can’t trust the oil industry to keep our communities and environment safe. This case is about holding industry accountable and protecting the public from yet another plan to export fossil fuels to foreign countries.” 

Background

Xylenes are toxic, flammable petrochemicals used to make plastic and synthetics. The Andeavor Anacortes Refinery petrochemical expansion project would add capacity and allow the refinery to begin producing and exporting 15,000 barrels (630,000 gallons) of xylenes per day for export to Asia. It would increase Salish Sea tanker traffic by an additional five tankers per month.

More than 7,500 people submitted comments on the project’s draft environmental impact statement (EIS), the majority of which asked Skagit County to address concerns over worker safety standards, petrochemical spills in the Salish Sea, risks to endangered orcas, massive increases in the pollution that causes global warming, and use of the new facility for crude oil export. Commenters also asked the county to separately review the xylene export and clean products upgrade components of the project, while properly accounting for greenhouse gas pollution.

In July 2017, Skagit County Planning and Development Services issued the project’s final environmental impact statement, just two months after the public comment period on the draft EIS. The final EIS did not adequately address concerns in many areas.

In November 2017, more than 100 people attended a public hearing on the project’s Shoreline Substantial Development Permit. The overwhelming majority of them were there to continue to highlight flaws in the project’s final EIS, and to call on the Skagit County Hearing Examiner to deny the crucial shoreline permit for the project.

On February 27, the Skagit County Board of Commissioners held a two hour hearing with presentations by attorneys for the appellants, and Tesoro and comments by parties of record. The hearing was attended by more than 100 people.  The Board announced their decision to uphold the Hearing Examiner’s decision on March 9.

Tuesday, Feb. 27th: Critical moratorium extension hearing!

posted Feb 19, 2018, 3:19 PM by Simon Bakke   [ updated Feb 25, 2018, 9:41 PM by Eddy Ury ]

Cherry Point is still at risk of becoming an unrefined fossil fuel export hub, and we need you to insist that the Whatcom County Council make permanent policies to protect public health and safety from the threat of these exports. More shipments of crude oil, tar sands, fracked gas, and coal will increase the risks of spills and explosions while jeopardizing local jobs.  

After two years of public hearings and thousands of comments,  legal experts will present a long-awaited advisory study on February 27th about the county’s powers to protect us from the threat of more bomb trains, pipelines, and tanker traffic in the Salish Sea.

Will you email the County Council today and ask them to again extend the moratorium? 

We’re almost ready to move beyond temporary measures and implement lasting policies that can prevent the oil refinery shipping docks at Cherry Point from converting into crude oil export terminals. But we need more time for the public to weigh in on these new policies, and the current moratorium is set to expire next month. 

SAVE THE DATE for a public hearing Tuesday, February 27th. The meeting begins at 6:00 PM, instead of the usual 7:00PM. You can sign-up to speak on a clipboard at the entrance to the Council Chambers. You only have three minutes to speak, so please look at our "How to make effective public comments" tips to make a clear, eloquent comment.

Email the Council: sample message

Subject: Extend the moratorium on permits for unrefined fossil fuel export projects
To: council@co.whatcom.wa.us

Honorable council members,

As a voting citizen of Whatcom County, I urge you to extend the moratorium on permits for unrefined fossil fuel export projects.

Now that the legal advisory study has been completed, I hope you will take comprehensive steps to institute conditions for county permits that prevent new or upgraded facilities from exporting unrefined fossil fuels. 

Lifting the moratorium now would allow companies like BP, Kinder Morgan, Williams, SSA Marine and Petrogas to apply for permits and obtain vested rights, exempting them from new development regulations. 

I support action to the greatest extent of your power to protect the people and natural resources of Whatcom County from risky expansions to export crude oil, tar sands bitumen, fracked gas, propane or coal through Cherry Point. 

Thank you for serving our communities.

[Your full name]
[Your city, voting address optional]

Take action: Tell the County Council to extend the moratorium on new unrefined fossil fuel permits

posted Aug 24, 2017, 11:32 AM by RE Sources for Sustainable Communities   [ updated Sep 13, 2017, 4:09 PM by Eddy Ury ]

By Eddy Ury, Clean Energy Program Manager

Whatcom County continues to face proposals to export fracked gas and tar sands via pipelines through our farmland and rivers and across the Salish Sea to overseas markets.

Right now, the county is conducting a legal study to develop tools to protect public health and safety from increases in rail, pipeline, and tanker shipments. In the meantime, companies like BP, Williams, Petrogas, Kinder Morgan, and SSA Marine are barred from applying for permits for pipeline, rail and pier expansions under the interim moratorium on permits to facilitate increased shipments of unrefined fossil fuels not to be processed at Cherry Point. 

But the moratorium is set to expire soon, and must be extended by September 26th. The County Council needs to hear that the community supports them in maintaining this moratorium. 

Will you email the County Council today and ask them to extend the moratorium? 

How you can help:

  1. Email the County Council.  After many requests from citizens like you, on September 12th the Council introduced an ordinance to extend the moratorium for an additional six months. Email the council and urge them to approve the ordinance on September 26th. 

  2. Save the date for a Tuesday, September 26th public hearing. The Council meeting starts at 7pm, but the hall will be packed, so arrive by 6pm to save a seat and sign-up to speak in the hearing. Comments are limited to three minutes each. 

Talking points

Subject: Extend the moratorium on permits for unrefined fossil fuel export projects
To: council@co.whatcom.wa.us

Sample message:

Honorable council members,

As a voting citizen of Whatcom County, I urge you to extend the moratorium on permits for unrefined fossil fuel export projects by September 26th.

Lifting the moratorium now would allow companies like Williams, BP, SSA Marine, Kinder Morgan and Petrogas to apply for permits and obtain vested rights, exempting them from new development regulations.

I support action to the greatest extent of your power to protect the people and natural resources of Whatcom County from risky expansions to export fracked gas, tar sands, crude oil, propane or coal through Cherry Point.

I hope you will take further action following completion of the legal study underway. Thank you for serving our communities.

[Your full name]
[Your city, voting address optional]

Washington State Legislature passes Solar Bill, protecting homeowner incentives and local solar jobs

posted Jul 5, 2017, 11:34 AM by RE Sources for Sustainable Communities   [ updated Jul 7, 2017, 10:26 AM ]

By Bonnie Frye Hemphill Legislative Liaison, Solar Installers of Washington

solarstrongwa.com

You did it. Thanks to your hard work, the Legislature has passed the solar bill. The bill earned bipartisan support, with 85% of legislators voting in favor — an amazing tally.

And we didn’t just pass a bill. Together, we built a community of 10,000 people passionate about clean energy and energy independence. We teamed solar home- and business-owners with environmental activists, entrepreneurs, utilities, faith leaders, union leaders, low-income advocates, credit unions, and manufacturers. We earned the respect of Republicans and Democrats alike in Olympia.

This accomplishment:
  • Defends current solar owners from further erosion of your production incentives.
  • Creates a new, right-sized program for new solar owners in WA.
  • Saves the thousands of solar jobs we already have, and creates the legislative certainty for solar to grow by leaps and bounds.
The Solar Jobs Bill was always a long shot. But you didn’t give up. You kept calling your legislators to share your solar stories. You kept spreading the word on social media, and showing up for meetings with legislators. You made Solar Lobby Day a standing-room only summit in Olympia. Together, we made the long shot.

It's a new day for solar in Washington. Onward, together. Learn more online at solarstrongwa.com.


What's new in the solar bill?

The new solar bill is good news for current and future solar owners in Washington. But what are the details?

Check out an overview of the bill for both current and future solar owners. The goals include:
  • Stimulate further local investment in renewable energy.
  • Ensure the program’s cost-effectiveness.
  • Prevent further erosion of production incentives for existing solar owners enrolled in the legacy solar program.
  • Ensure simplicity and certainty for new solar owners.
  • Create opportunities for low-income households to access savings via Community Solar balanced among utilities, nonprofits, and housing authorities.

County Council OKs Comprehensive Plan updates: What's next for Whatcom County?

posted Jun 5, 2017, 11:44 AM by RE Sources for Sustainable Communities   [ updated Jun 5, 2017, 2:25 PM ]

By Eddy Ury, Clean Energy Program Manager

Whatcom County remains a targeted route for export of tar sands, crude oil, fracked gas, propane, and coal overseas. Because of this, urgent action has been needed by our local leaders to set clear county policies before any new proposals are submitted.

Our county's Comprehensive Plan is a guiding policy document that helps county government set development regulations on land and water uses. Conditions for processing, approving, or rejecting permit applications are made in line with policies in the Comprehensive Plan.  

After an extended policymaking process that began in 2016, through collaboration with the county Planning Commission, Planning Department staff, attorneys, industry stakeholders and thousands of community members, in May 2017 the Whatcom County Council approved final amendments to the Whatcom Comprehensive Plan for Cherry Point. These landmark policies will:
  • Prevent piecemeal upgrades for oil exports by requiring federal Magnuson Amendment review of permits that involve handling crude oil.
  • Block any new proposals for shipping piers in the Cherry Point Aquatic Reserve.
  • Recognize Lummi Nation’s history and treaty-protected fishing rights.
  • Encourage water recycling and low-carbon technology.
  • Commission a legal study to help the county protect the community from crude oil, coal, liquefied petroleum gases, and natural gas exports. 

Thank you to everyone who wrote, called, and testified at hearings over the past 18 months. Because of you, the council voted 6-1 to approve the amendments, even in the face of strident opposition. People like you made this possible. Thank you.

What's next for Whatcom County? We must continue to support the moratorium on permits for unrefined fossil fuel projects, and ensure the county completes a legal study by the end of the year. Read more below.


What’s next for Whatcom County

Extend the moratorium

The county’s temporary moratorium on permits for unrefined fossil fuel export projects remains in effect until September 2017. The moratorium must stay in place until the Shoreline Master Plan is updated, and until recommendations from the legal study can be implemented. With strident propaganda and campaigns opposing this moratorium, it will be critical for the majority of Whatcom County voters to show support for this action ahead of the November 2017 election.

Conduct a legal study

In accordance with Policy 2CC-16 of the Comprehensive Plan, the county will undertake a study to examine existing county laws and develop recommendations for legal ways the county could choose to limit the negative impacts on public safety, transportation, the economy, and environment from crude oil, coal, liquefied petroleum gases, and natural gas exports from Cherry Point. The county should consider any legal advice freely submitted to the county and make that advice publicly available. The county will develop code and rule amendments for council consideration as soon as possible.

Update Shoreline Master Plan

Under Washington State’s Shoreline Management Act, municipalities are delegated responsibility to decide on permits for development and conditional uses of shorelines. The Whatcom County Shoreline Master Plan outlines the conditions for permits. Whatcom County must update its Shoreline Master Plan to:
  • Prohibit permits for new piers, docks, wharfs, or shoreline modification within the Cherry Point Aquatic Reserve.
  • Set conditions for shoreline permitting to ensure that no development will result in an increase of the volume of crude oil being handled at any facility, other than oil to be refined in Washington State. 
  • Conform to the conditions of the Cherry Point Aquatic Reserve Management Plan, which was updated in January 2017.

Convene the Climate Impact Advisory Committee

Whatcom County’s 2016 Comprehensive Plan includes Policy 11D-6, which calls for the convening of a climate impact advisory committee by 2017. The advisory committee should consist of (but not be limited to) experts in energy efficiency and carbon emission reduction, representatives from Whatcom County, and interested community members. The committee will:


  • Evaluate Whatcom County’s compliance with meeting targets set forth in the 2007 Climate Plan.
  • Establish new targets that meet or exceed state and federal climate impact goals.
  • Update the Climate Plan, at minimum every five years, or as needed to meet targets;.
  • Recommend updates to the Whatcom County Comprehensive Plan in accordance with meeting Whatcom County’s emission reduction goals.
  • Ensure that Whatcom County government facilities and operations are designed to meet or exceed goals and standards resolved in the 2007 Climate Protection and Energy Conservation Action Plan and future updates. 
The committee has yet to be convened. We hope to ensure this is a collaborative, inclusive process which strives for the strongest achievable goals to make Whatcom County a leader in clean energy growth and climate adaptation. Stay tuned for updates, and email cleanenergy@re-sources.org if you are interested in getting involved in this process.

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